If you don’t know what you’re getting into, Spice and Wolf can seem a little daunting at first. The very first episode, and just about every episode that follows it, is basically 24 consecutive minutes of people talking. Mostly about economics. Medieval economics at that. Sounds boring, yes? Well, surprisingly, it isn’t.
This is due entirely to how fascinating the characters and their relationships with each other are. Lawrence, being a merchant, always looks at things in terms of money. Either making it, spending it, or keeping track of the debt Holo has racked up during their travels. He always keeps somewhat detached from things, never really showing much emotion no matter what’s going on around him. That is, until it seems like Holo may be in danger, during which time he is genuinely panicked and gets irritated when the people he tries to seek help from don’t act quickly enough. Over time it becomes clear that despite his behavior he has started to develop genuine feelings for Holo and cares about her deeply.
Holo herself is a rather interesting character. Despite being a several hundred year old deity, she behaves more like a child. She gets excited about food, going so far as demanding Lawrence take her to another city for a chance to eat apples pickled in honey. She tries to act the part of a deity, by talking big about herself or belittling humans, acting like she’s not interested in anything they do. But this only makes her seem like a child attempting to impress someone by bragging. All this bragging and boasting serves to hide the fact that she’s really just lonely, having been stuck watching over one particular wheat field for many years, and having no real contact with anyone.
Watching the two talk to each other, which you will be doing a lot, can be very interesting. Lawrence initially acts like having Holo around is a nuisance to him. If the church finds her with him he’d end up in trouble, and keeping her hidden can prove to be troublesome. He’ll constantly remind Holo about what a nuisance she is, not realizing that he’s hurting her by doing so. For her part, Holo will tease Lawrence whenever the chance arises, usually about his weakness to women. Both coyly avoid admitting how they really feel about each other, despite it becoming obvious over time that an affection has grown between the two. The only time they really show their true feelings is when one or the other is in danger. When Holo is at risk of being found out, Lawrence organizes a plan to rescue her despite it being entirely possible for him to leave her behind at no loss to himself. Likewise, when Lawrence is in danger, Holo is willing to assume her great wolf form, something that would give away her identity in normal circumstances, to save him. Even if neither one outright says it, it’s obvious that they care about one another.
The series is divided into two arcs, each one six episodes long, with an episode in the middle that isn’t part of either story. This episode isn’t filler though, as it gives a great deal of insight into the relationship between Lawrence and Holo as they just wander around town and just talk like normal people. The actual stories themselves are a little formulaic. Lawrence will stumble upon some sort of deal that could make him a lot of money, the deal goes bad and he ends up in trouble, and eventually Holo will intervene to save him. It’s a minor flaw and the only real problem with the series.
FUNimation produced an excellent dub for the series, with even the most insignificant of characters getting great voices. The one performance that stands out the most is Brina Palencia as Holo. She gives a somewhat different performance than Holo’s Japanese voice actor, Ami Koshimizu. In Japanese, Holo sounds like a young girl, which fits because she does look like a young girl. But she’s really a several hundred year old deity, and knowing that it seems somewhat odd to have her sounding as young as she does. Brina Palencia’s performance gives the sense that Holo is older than she looks. Though she doesn’t sound old exactly – “wiser” is the word I would use to describe her voice. I feel like that fits Holo a little better since she does refer to herself as a “Wise Wolf,” but either voice works for its own reasons.
Spice and Wolf can easily seem boring based based solely on a description, and if watching characters talk forever isn’t your cup of tea, it’s going to seem boring if you actually watch it. But if mountains of dialogue don’t bother you, or if you perhaps prefer that kind of thing, then Spice and Wolf is an excellent series to watch. Even if you’re a little iffy about it, you should give it a try. I found myself a little put off by all the talking when I first started watching, but once the characters get a hold of you, you’ll start wondering how the episodes can seem to go by so quickly.